50mm shootout on a GH2


Mu-43 All-Pro
Aug 5, 2010
The Netherlands
Real Name
So I did a shootout this morning between my three 50mm lenses, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 (N1.2), the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 (N1.8) and the Minolta Rokkor 50mm f/1.4 (R1.4). Frankly, I forgot to include my Nikkor 50mm f/2, suffice it to say that I'm convinced that it'll not beat any of these lenses except maybe at f/5.6 where it is excellent.

All pictures are taken within 10 minutes or so. They were shot in raw and processed to jpeg files without any other interference from my part apart from the defaults in Adobe Camera Raw for the GH2. Shooting distance was about 3m. Each shot from f/1.2 through f/2.8 was focussed at its working aperture, focussing of the f/4 and f/5.6 pics was done at f/2.8. I used the maximum enlargement of the GH2's finder; incidentally, I was shocked to see this way how long it took for the tripod's vibrations to die down, easily lasting 5 s! For the record, the tripod is a Manfrotto 055PROB with a Manfrotto 029 Mk II P/T head, so it's even not some cheap-ass tripod too!

You can find all pictures here, full-size versions available, so you can make up your own mind and ignore my cr*ppy comments :biggrin:.

**** f/1.2 ****
No competition here for the N1.2. There's a lot of flare, but plenty of detail across the frame, edges and corners keep up surprisingly well with center sharpness.

**** f/1.4 ****
The R1.4 and N1.2 are quite similar here, maybe the Nikkor has a little bit better resolution in the center, but the Rokkor has the edge in the edges. The Rokkor has a remarkably even IQ across the frame. The Nikkor hardly improves upon its performance at f/1.2, not surprising given the very little difference in actual aperture diameter. The amount of veiling flare prohibits really sharp-looking pictures, maybe it's nice for portraits/dreamy pics.

**** f/1.8 ****
The N1.8 is not exactly stunning wide-open. Even in the test picture you can see the tendency to purple fringing, which can be quite harsh in practice. I didn't compare here with the other ones.

**** f/2 ****
The N1.8 improves quite a lot here. The N1.2 has the best center resolution and contrast, closely followed by the N1.8. The Rokkor clearly stays behind on resolution and contrast, giving a lesser impression of sharpness. In edges and corners the N1.2 is the clear winner, the others lose resolution and especially contrast, there's not a lot of difference between the N1.8 and R1.4 here. I'd say that the N1.2 is the only lens that yields good results here.

**** f/2.8 ****
The N1.2 clearly has the best center sharpness and contrast, this looks really good. The other ones stay a bit behind and are quite similar. In the extreme corners and edges the R1.4 surprises with the best sharpness, closely followed by the N1.2 and the N1.8 is clearly behind.

**** f/4 ****
Best center sharpness again for the N1.2. Somewhat lower contrast and resolution for the R1.4 and the N1.8 is again behind. I suspect there is some focus shift involved for the N1.8, I distinctly remember having seen sharper pics at f/4. And again the R1.4 is better in the extreme corners and edges than the N1.2, with the N1.8 again clearly lagging behind, probably due to field curvature.

**** f/5.6 ****
All the remarks made for f/4 apply here as well, a bit mitigated by the smaller aperture.

I also did some comparisons on CA. I'll spare you all the details, in general CA is at its worst at the smaller apertures. I have shown the results for f/4. Again a surprise: the R1.4 showed hardly any CA, stunning! The N1.8 came second and the N1.2 last in this department. The pics are shown in the same gallery as before, they are 200 % crops. Ignore the unsharp trees and branches, it's a very windy day so far.

Overall, the N1.2 is the best lens for low-light adventures as well as general photography, when you're prepared to remove CA in post: it's fully useable at f/2 and stunning at f/2.8 to f/4. The Rokkor 50/1.4 surprises with its very even image quality across the frame and almost complete absence of CA at smaller apertures, albeit with a somewhat lower contrast and resolution than the N1.2; not unimportantly, it's a lot lighter and easier to handle too. The N1.8 is a little bit disappointing in this test, but I'm not sure I did it justice; maybe you have to always focus this lens at its working aperture.

Which goes to show that, again, there is no perfect lens...

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